iconimg Monday, April 27, 2015

Harish V Nair, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, September 04, 2013
The health ministry on Wednesday told the Delhi high court that it has formed a seven-member expert committee to finalise its recently drafted guidelines on regulating sale of junk food in and around school premises.

Research company AC Nielsen which was tasked with drafting of the guideline had suggested banning of  sandwitches, pizzas, chips, burgers, noodles, french fries, sandwiches and aerated soft drinks in schools across the country.

It said these were “junk food which contained no proteins or vitamins but were rich in salt, sugar and high in calories which can cause obesity and hypertension”.

Additional Solicitor General Rajeeve Mehra said the expert panel will have as members four members of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India-- advisor S Dave, product approval director Pradeep Chakraborty, Quality Director K Sandhya, scientist  Meenakshi Singh and one official each from HRD ministry, Health Ministry and National Institute of Nutrition.

The court is hearing a PIL filed by social activist Rahul Verma of the NGO Uday Foundation demanding ban of sale of junk food in schools. “If the guidelines are strictly implemented, children will have access only to healthy food and not those which cause obesity and other dangerous diseases”.

The panel will also hold discussions with All India Food Processors Association (AIFPA) and Restaurant Association. But the AIFPA had in its affidavit questioned the credentials of Nielsen to frame the draft guidelines.

“AC Nielsen is neither a scientific body nor does it have relevant expertise to provide advise in the area of food law. It is a consumer market research company which has no qualifications to develop scientific guidelines for improvement in safety and quality of food served to school children”, the AIFPA said .

Contending that such the company is only known for data collection, AIFPA said the health ministry guidelines failed to take into account crucial aspects related to food, nutrition, eating habits and life style and its approach was not supported by any scientific rationale.